By Avery Walker
The holiday season is a time of year filled with joy and wonder, traditions and celebrations, friends and family. It can also be a time of clutter, panicked shopping trips, financial stress, and overwhelming social obligations. Sometimes it is nice to take a step back from the materialism that has become synonymous with the Christmas season, and experience the holidays from a different perspective. When my family and I made the choice to move from a three-bedroom house on family land to a tiny apartment in an unfamiliar city, minimalism became more than a popular trend. For us, it became a necessary way of life in our small space. I found myself dreading the piles of toys and boxes of decorations that I would need to find a place for when the holidays rolled around. Here are a few ways we have found to get the most out of Christmas without feeling like we are up to our ears in “stuff.”
Having a minimalist Christmas does not mean swearing off gift giving altogether. A few years ago, we decided to start giving experiences instead of physical gifts whenever possible. Whether it be tickets to an event, a day at a theme park, a family night at the movies, or something else your friends and family enjoy, giving an experience is a way to give something that will last for years to come. Experience gifts do not need to be expensive: vouchers for acts of service can be just as meaningful. Memories, photos, and time spent together are priceless gifts that will not get returned, be shoved into the back of a closet, or collect dust on a shelf. The gift of an experience provides days or weeks of excitement and anticipation. And, as an added bonus, they do not require much wrapping paper.
Another great type of no-fuss holiday gift to both give and receive is consumable items. This category lends itself to a plethora of homemade items such as soaps, lotions, and candles, jams and pickles, spice mixes and baked goods. If you are not feeling crafty, store-bought consumables can be just as special. Many people assume consumable gifts are just for adults, but there are many options for children as well. My son especially likes science kits, and many of these are intended for one time use. This means he enjoys hours of fun and learning, and I don’t have to find a place to store them for very long. Art and craft supplies like modeling clay, sidewalk chalk, art paper, and pencils make great gifts that are meant to be used up. If you want a gift that keeps on giving, there are many exciting subscription boxes that are full of learning tools, games, or fun cultural experiences. Although books and board games are not truly consumable, they are still some of our favorite gifts, and often already have a dedicated space in most homes.
Whether you want to embrace the spirit of giving in a selfless way, instill character in your children, or simply help to relieve the burdens of others during the holidays, giving back is a great way to enjoy Christmas in a way that does not clutter your house or your mind. Countless outreaches have special events and drives going through the winter months to help those in need. Whether it is participating in a food drive, filling care packages for soldiers, adopting a family in need of gifts, or simply gathering up toys and clothing to donate, giving back to your community is a great way to spread joy. Visiting nursing homes and shut-ins is another way to serve others at Christmas by bringing happiness to someone who may see the holidays as a dark and lonely time. Whether it is caroling, visiting, or simply writing and handing out cards, a simple gesture can go a long way.
Give Time Away
Several Christmases ago, we were feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of the holidays, and we decided to think outside the box. We left all the parties, boxes of decorations, last minute shopping and other obligations behind and booked a condo at the beach. Though this will not work for every family, depending on your personal traditions and the stage your family is in, for us it turned out to be a meaningful and relaxing few days of focused time spent together. A family cruise or renting a big house in the mountains may be the perfect reset button for your family during the holidays. Many times, a change of scenery allows us to see each other in a new light, or appreciate things we have forgotten about each other over time. If taking a trip is not feasible for you, consider an unplugged family night without the distraction of electronics. Sometimes an intentional family activity can be just as beneficial as time away from home.
However you choose to celebrate the holidays this year, may your days be merry, bright, and stress-free as you take time to count your blessings and value those you love.